Americans are increasingly looking for ways to realign their lives with their faith. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 72 percent of Americans believe that the influence of religion on life in the United States is declining, and they feel this is an unfortunate direction for the country. One area in which Americans are demonstrating this interest is the way they choose to cover their family’s and employees’ health care costs.
The Alliance for Health Care Sharing Ministries reports that its members, Samaritan Ministries and Medi-Share, currently share more than $180 million per year among their 240,000 participants. A health care sharing ministry (HCSM) is founded on the biblical mandate of believers to apply Galatians 6:2, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (NLT). Medi-share is one of 53 medical aid societies or health care sharing ministries that have emerged in the last decade.
Sharing is growing.
Over the last four years, Medishare has seen a three-fold increase in membership. Today they have 106,000 members compared with approximately 35,000 in 2010. According to Tony Meggs, president and CEO of Christian Care Ministry, “Medi-Share has seen a lot of growth in the past year with a 40 percent increase since open enrollment in 2013.”
The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the average family insurance policy costs $16,834 a year. A family covered by Medi-share will pay approximately $3,600 a year.
“We’re thrilled to be able to offer Christians a choice in their healthcare without paying any penalties. Many members are saving money as the average yearly cost is about a fourth of the cost of health insurance,” said Meggs.
According to Twila Brase, president of Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, “The current health care system is unsustainable for multiple reasons, not the least of which is that it requires that young, healthy Americans enroll in Obamacare to fund care for older, sicker Americans. And, as we’ve seen, that hasn’t happened. The healthcare law has also resulted in higher premiums due to new taxes and mandates, and many are finding it’s unaffordable even with federal tax-payer funded premium subsidies.”
In his 25-page report on medical aid societies, Citizens’s Council for Health Freedom Senior Policy Fellow Greg Scandlen says, “Capitalism is the most cooperative, community-oriented economic system ever invented, but capitalism and self-governance must be leavened with virtue. Among those virtues is a willingness to help one another through hard times.”
Scandlen goes on to report, “First in Great Britain and then in the United States, ordinary working people banded together to provide a wide range of mutual assistance, which included life insurance, medical care and sick pay. Over time, these self-help organizations were displaced first by commercial organizations and then by government programs.”
Brase notes that “medical aid societies are drastically different from government-run health care and even traditional insurance plans in that aid societies are avenues in which people can pool their money and share resources with like-minded individuals in need.” She goes on to note that, “unlike government-run health care, medical aid societies actually have a history of working. They are not dependent on taxpayer funding or government planning, but instead represent a cooperative, community-oriented economic system in which individuals help one another through hard times.”
In his momentous book The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, Michael Novak argues that while many view capitalism as a relatively individualistic enterprise, it is actually the most cooperative economic and political system that has ever existed. He writes, “The very structure of democratic capitalism – even its impersonal economic system – is aimed at community… the community of free persons in voluntary association.”
The pros and cons
When considering a medical aid society, it is important to consider your individual needs and those of your family. Regarding the benefits and challenges, Brase notes that “medical aid societies have multiple benefits including lower costs, a sense of community among those who participate, and strict criteria so individuals know their money isn’t supporting procedures or lifestyles that violate their consciences.”
Brase also points out that “it’s important to realize that [medical societies] are not insurance plans, there are no guarantees of payment for individual medical claims, and each individual is ultimately still responsible for his or her medical expenses. Additionally, some medical societies have limits on sharing, and pre-existing conditions may not be covered, depending on the situation, so it’s important to review a medical society’s guidelines.”
She concluded by noting that most people are extremely satisfied with the coverage provided and enjoy the sense of community they share through medical aid societies.
For more information on health care sharing ministries, go to www.healthcaresharing.org/hcsm
Dr. Terry Morrow Nelson is the president of the Center for Leadership and Transformation and is a Certified Christian Conciliator. She is also a professor and administrator at Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at [email protected]